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Kill the Shogun: A Samurai Mystery    by Dale Furutani order for
Kill the Shogun
by Dale Furutani
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2000 (2000)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kill the Shogun concludes a trilogy, whose earlier entries were Death at the Crossroads and Jade Palace Vendetta. I had not read these two volumes, but was still able to pick up the background quickly and enjoy the fast-paced action of this third one. It starts by revealing to the reader a food chain sequence of different predators (hawk and human) waiting to ambush their prey, and then moves into the booming city of Edo with its abundant street entertainment.

Edo has been the capital since the victory of the Tokugawas led by Japan's new Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. There we watch a puppet play. Then a man who looks like a ronin, but exhibits the skills of a samurai, juggles a spinning top with a sword. Matsuyama Kaze's disguise helps him to evade arrest by the recent victors while searching for the nine-year-old abducted daughter of his dead Lord and Lady. Kaze has learned that she was sent to the Little Flower Whorehouse in Edo.

Kaze is recognized just before an assassination attempt on Ieyasu. A daimyo is killed and Kaze is blamed for it. Soon there's a price on his head, and samurai, ninjas and the henchmen of a local crimelord are all after him. After some rooftop evasions and fight sequences reminiscent of Zorro, Kaze finds temporary refuge with old friends who have just bought a failing theater. After many close calls, he unravels the mystery behind the attempt to kill the Shogun. Along the way, the author unveils scenes from both Kaze's and his enemy's childhood, clarifying current motivations.

Furutani gives us a great combination of mystery, history and action, with an engagingly handsome and honorable hero against a vicious villain - a fast and fun read. If you like historical mysteries against a backdrop of Japanese culture, don't miss the Samurai trilogy.

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